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Jon’s Street Eats rolls again

on April 21, 2011

One of the all-time favorites dishes at the old Jon’s Street Eats was the ahi tuna roll. Chef Jon Kosorek would lightly sear rare tuna encrusted with black sesame seeds, top it with Asian-inspired slaw and wasabi aioli, then layer it all into a grilled soft white roll. When Kosorek shuttered Jon’s Street Eats in February, moving onto an executive chef job in Calistoga, his customers lamented the loss.

Now, there’s a new “Jon” in town and he’s serving up much of the same sought-after cuisine and recipes as the original. “All people keep asking for is the ahi tuna roll,” says John Betteo who bought Jon’s Street Eats from Kosorek in March. “So I keep making it.”

Betteo, who officially opened shop the first week in April, is focused on keeping Jon’s Street Eats as close to the original as possible. “You have to keep the people who know what you’re about happy,” he says. “I’m keeping the same style of the food.”

Besides the ahi tuna roll, Betteo is still making other customer favorites, such as the creamy mac-and-cheese cake covered with panko breadcrumbs and Gremolata cheese; grilled local asparagus layered on sliced prosciutto, topped with shaved grana cheese and a soft egg; and the butterscotch pudding.

“The customers are still following us, which is great,” says Betteo. “They’re all excited about the cart being back on the road.”

Betteo’s grilled romaine salad.

The original Jon’s Street Eats, which got started in August 2009, was one of Oakland’s first gourmet mobile food trucks. Kosorek, who was professionally trained at the Culinary Institute of America, became known for his Americana style cuisine and high-quality, fresh and local ingredients. He never intended to make Jon’s Street Eats a life-long business, but rather meant for it to be the beginning steps of opening his own brick-and-mortar restaurant.

When Kosorek was offered an executive chef job at Brannan’s Grill in Calistoga, he decided to sell his mobile restaurant. But he didn’t want to sell it to just anybody. He wanted to find the right person to carry on the business with the same recipes, concept and quality. Along with selling the actual truck, he also offered to train the buyer on how to cook his customers’ favorite dishes. He found his match when Betteo answered his Craigslist ad.

Betteo had been thinking of opening a mobile food truck for the last five or six years, after being in the restaurant business for a good portion of his life. “I kept thinking there’s got to be a way to run a restaurant with low overhead,” he says. “I’d eaten at Jon’s before and when he said he was selling it, I asked about it.”

The idea of buying Jon’s Street Eats intrigued Betteo, because instead of building a food truck from scratch, he would be buying a ready-made business. “It had the reputation and the good will,” he says. “It was ready to go.”

Although Betteo majored in business in college, he was always interested in cooking. His father owned a restaurant on the Peninsula and after spending time helping out his dad, he decided to open his own Italian restaurant in Santa Cruz. After 10 years he sold the business and moved to San Francisco, where he worked in various restaurants both in management and in the kitchen, until he bought Jon’s Street Eats last month.

Since re-opening Jon’s Street Eats, Betteo has been serving mostly Kosorek’s original fare, but he’s also experimenting with some of his own recipes and variations. For example, this week he added a tomato base to the mac-and-cheese cakes rather than the typical white cream sauce. He tried making ahi tuna tacos, but people just kept asking for the rolls, so he says he probably won’t do that again. He also added a new dessert to the menu—bread pudding muffins, which are servings of brioche bread pudding with vanilla and cinnamon served in a muffin cup.

So far, Betteo has completed the permitting process to sell food in Alameda and Emeryville. He is still working on getting Oakland permits and also plans to eventually sell in San Francisco too. To find Jon’s Street Eats, go to his Twitter feed, Facebook page or website.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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